Goldy’s job isn’t all fun and games

There have been two known cases of physical assault against Goldy Gopher.

by Nathan Hall

With an escort at her side, University sophomore Alexa Trussoni starts her work shift by disappearing into a restroom with a gray marching-drum case and a blue mesh garment bag.

Inside the ladies’ room stall, Trussoni will step into a furry yellow “muscle” suit, wrap a long tail around her waist, slip on a pair of mustard-yellow fur gloves and emerge wearing a cartoonish, oversized head.

For the next half hour, she is no longer Alexa but a mute Goldy Gopher.

For nearly two years, Trussoni has been one of about 50 full-time University students in good academic standing who work part time for $10 per hour as the University’s mascot for athletics, alumni and orientation events, among others.

Trussoni’s stop this day is a graduate admissions office party. The job is usually a mix of pantomime, photo opportunities and a lot of hugging.

“The immediate response from people is a hug because you’re basically a great big cuddly teddy bear,” Trussoni said later.

Not everyone responds so warmly to Goldy, however.

On Feb. 17, 2002, Michael Lovas, a senior political science student, was the victim of one of two known cases of physical assault against Goldy Gopher.

Lovas said that after the Gophers hockey team scored a game-tying goal against the University of Wisconsin, an enraged Badgers fan blindsided him and began punching him after he fell to the cement ground in Mariucci Arena.

“All I can see through the little eyeholes are pissed-off Badger fans, which is not a very good feeling,” Lovas said. “We’re not allowed to speak while in character so I stole his hat and threw it, and that, for whatever reason, diffused the situation.”

Because of their temporary worker status, Goldy Gophers are not eligible for sick time, health insurance or vacation days.

Nonetheless, the athletics department did pay Lovas’ hospital bill under worker’s compensation. He said he still occasionally experiences sharp pain in his elbow.

Lovas said the other assault occurred in 1996, also during a men’s hockey game, when an inebriated University graduate tried to tear off Goldy’s head and was eventually charged with fifth-degree assault.

“A lot of people yank on your tail, too, or bop you on the head,” Lovas said. “One of the main reasons for escorts is personal safety issues.”

University Relations administrative aide Andrew Chelseth, also a “Goldy coordinator,” said the mascot has an escort for another reason: so “Goldy doesn’t run into a guardrail, stuff like that.”

Lovas said despite occasional abuse, he still loves his job, which includes visiting a children’s cancer ward on Halloween and giving presents to poor children for Christmas.

“My little brother thinks it’s the coolest thing in the whole world,” he said.

Trussoni said many of her friends and family in La Crosse, Wis., laughed when she told them what she did for a living.

The greatest insult, she said, is when she is confused for the University of Wisconsin’s mascot, Bucky Badger:

“Do I look like a badger to you?”